A strong Central Europe within the European Union, both in a political and economic sense, is a common interest of Hungary and Slovenia. This is not an anti-EU position, but very much a pro-EU stance as a strong Europe cannot exist without strong Member States and regions which are capable of growth, Szabolcs Takács, the Minister of State for EU Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office told the Hungarian news agency MTI in an interview given by telephone on Thursday.

The Minister of State had bilateral talks with Dobran Bozic, State Secretary of the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Igor Mally, State Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, in Ljubljana where the parties discussed issues related to the Romanian EU Presidency which has just begun, the European parliamentary elections due to be held at the end of May, European integration, the future of the EU, the EU budget and illegal migration.

At the meetings the parties further discussed EU projects which help to improve the quality of infrastructure connections between northern and southern regions in the EU, as part of which they also spoke about Hungarian and Slovenian infrastructure and energy connections.

The Minister of State took the view that the close cooperation of neighbouring countries follows from the EU’s underlying ideals. Cooperation between Hungary and Slovenia is excellent, not only in EU affairs, but equally regarding Hungarians living in Slovenia. Proof of this is the Hungarian consulate general in Lendva which was opened in 2016 and the economic development programme which was launched by the Hungarian government, but is also supported by the Slovenian government, the Minister of State explained.

He said during the period to come those countries will be successful which stand up for such basic principles and core values as national identity, the strengthening of the security and competitiveness of the EU, the free movement of workers and an EU without internal border controls. “It is not acceptable either for Slovenia or for Hungary that some of our EU partners want to maintain border controls within the Schengen Area in the long term. This is a serious problem, not only because it is contrary to fundamental EU rights, but also because it causes financial losses”, he underlined.

According to Mr Takács, they expect the Romanian EU Presidency, which started on 1 January, to take into consideration the opinions of every Member State.

Regarding migration, he believed it was important to point out that Hungary respects the position of countries which wish to live in multicultural societies, but expects others, too, to respect the decision of the Hungarian or Slovenian people which may be different from their position.

After the May EP elections, we will need a migration policy which faithfully reflects the will of European citizens, he said, adding that both Slovenia and Hungary look upon illegal migration as one of the gravest challenges, and the interests of the two countries coincide as regards the protection of the EU’s external borders.

Slovenia will take over the rotating EU presidency in 2021, and the Western Balkans enlargement of the EU will be one of the key priorities for the former Yugoslav member state. Both countries sincerely hope that a new European Commission will be formed before the end of this year which will be pro-enlargement and a friend of enlargement. “The countries of the Western Balkans must become members of the EU within the shortest possible time; there are equally political, economic and security interests that support this position”, the Minister of State stressed.

In the context of the debate on the EU budget, he highlighted that both Hungary and Slovenia agree that Brexit in itself cannot be a reason for the reduction of the next seven-year budget. “Meaning that rather than putting the cart before the horse, we must first identify our goals, and then assign financial resources to these”, he said.

The Commission’s current proposal is unbalanced, and punishes the countries of the Central European region. The Minister of State also told his Slovenian counterparts that Hungary is likewise unable to support the concept which seeks to promote the integration of immigrants arriving in Europe illegally from the common budget, while poorer regions would have access to less money.